Born in 1924 to a father who didn’t finish high school and a mother with a two-year teaching certificate, Mina Shaughnessy earned her BA & MA from prestigious private universities: Northwestern and Columbia, respectively. For financial reasons, she did not pursue a Ph.D. Her modest rural roots, her reputable education, and her own frustration at not feeling free to attain the highest academic achievement provide context for the pioneering work she did at the end of her relatively short life in 1978, a year before Errors and Expectations was published.
My name is Kahdeidra, and I was unable to attend this week’s class session; however, I have listened to the audio recording of the discussion and have attempted two provocations based on what I heard and my own analysis of the reading and film. I’d love to read your thoughts!
In this Monday’s class, Professor Mandiberg posed the following question: How did the text and the film represent race or not? The class discussed how the Androids are enslaved labor and that indigenous and African-descended people are entirely excluded from the narrative. For me, the idea of colonizing another place immediately foregrounded racialized colonialism and chattel slavery. However, there also appears to be a metanarrative on Orientalism in the film. In the film’s setting, Japanese female sexuality is idealized and is the dominant representation. This contrasts with the U.S. tradition of White female sexuality and beauty being idealized. One recalls the advertisement in the opening scenes. The advertisements feature an Asian woman dressed as a Geisha. As a viewer, how did you “see” this woman? Did she seem out of place, or did you accept it as a logical aspect of setting? What was Deckerd’s relationship to his surroundings?
My experience was that we seem to participate in the orientalizing of Asian cultures because our gaze is aligned with Deckerd, a White male authority figure who does not speak either Japanese or the dominant street language, that evolves from several different languages. It was a powerful commentary on linguistic ideology when the Asian American cook is forced to translate for him, and we learn that he is in fact multilingual, despite pretending that he did not understand Deckert’s use of English. Even still, Deckerd does not seem embarrassed, only annoyed by the languaging practices around him. He retains his White male, monolingual privilege in a clearly Asian-dominated, multilingual context.
Later in the film, I recognized what appeared to be another example of idealizing Japanese female sexuality. The make-up design of the female android with white powder and black eyes was reminiscent of Geisha make-up and Japanese Kabuki theater. Did anyone else have these thoughts? Or, is my analysis overreaching?
What do we make of the death of Tyrell, the founder of the Tyrell corporation? It was glossed over in the class discussion, but I think that it is worth revisiting. Consider the manner in which the android killed him. He firmly kissed him on the lips and then gouged his eyes out. How did you read the kiss? Was it homoerotic? Was it a commentary on androgyny and sexual fluidity? Finally, was it significant that his eyes are gouged out? If so, what could his eyes and immediate death symbolize? (I was surprised that he died immediately after this injury. I expected that he would be forced to live with blindness.) What themes could be at play in regards to the role of corporations in our lives?